Tag: Retro-Post

Retro-Post: Book Confessions: I’m a Prude

Posted September 15, 2017 by Holly in Discussions, Features | 19 Comments

*****As part of our 10 year anniversary celebration, we’ll be re-posting old reviews and posts that make us cringe, laugh or sigh all over again.

Holly: I can’t even remember what book I was talking about in this post, but the sentiment remains. I hate the selfishness of historical heroines who refuse to consider the consequences of their actions.

This post was originally posted on April 16, 2010.


Here’s a little known secret about yours truly: When it comes to historical romance novels, I’m a complete prude. I can read the dirtiest of the dirty erotica, in public, and be fine. The sexual escapades and antics of modern-day heroines from contemporary romances don’t phase me a bit. But I have a higher standard for historical heroines.

I’m all about a woman acting outside of propriety, but not at the risk of complete ruin for either herself or the other characters involved. For example:

I’m current reading a historical romance novel set during the regency period. The heroine is in love with her brother’s best friend, and has been for years. She’s been out in society for 3 seasons now, but has refused all offers because she’s holding out for her one true love. The hero is resistant to marriage in general and marriage to the heroine in particular. Plus, her older brother, the hero’s best friend, has warned him off her. Which is all perfectly fine and well, but she’s decided this season that she needs to up the stakes and make him realize he really wants to be married. To her.

So she starts touching him at inappropriate times, cornering him as often as possible for kisses and even showing up in his bedchamber in the middle of the night wearing nothing but her night rail, then trying to seduce him.

I have several issues with this.

1) The heroine thinks to herself, many times, that she’s hurting her younger sisters by not accepting a marriage proposal from someone else. Neither of them are allowed to come out until she’s wed, so as not to take attention away from her. There is even an example given of a younger sister garnering more attention than the older one, so we as the reader can understand what a travesty this would be.

(As an aside, I found this fascinating. Generally in regency set historicals more than one sister is out at a time. I love that this author has taken a different approach here.)

Now, I understand the heroine wants to marry for love. I truly do. And I want her to. But her next youngest sister’s debut has already been delayed one season because of her actions. Since the hero has heretofore shown zero interest in her, I wonder at what point will she have to give it up and move on? Or will she continue to pine for him indefinitely, leaving her younger sisters to wither away as well?

2) If the heroine is compromised, she’ll be ruining her sisters’ chances as well. Any scandal that touches her touches her family, so there’s a double whammy where her sisters are concerned.

3) If there heroine is caught in a compromising position with the hero, he’ll be forced to marry her. Although it’s early in the book yet for me, I’m going to assume she doesn’t want to force him – she wants him to realize he loves her, too, and propose on his own.

Yet she doesn’t consider the consequences of her being in his bedchamber – in her house, by the way – in the middle of the night. She doesn’t think about her reputation or what the hero’s feelings will be if he’s forced into marrying her. Wouldn’t it upset all her plans to make him fall in love with her if he’s forced against his will?

Although I’m talking about a particular book above, this is something that bothers me 99% of the time in historical romances. Heroines who seduce – or are seduced by – the hero because they “love him” make me want to bash my head against the wall. I realize these novels are fiction, but what would happen to a young woman during the regency era if she were compromised? The total ruin of her reputation wouldn’t only reflect badly on her, but on her family as well. Younger siblings wouldn’t have a chance of gaining a decent marriage and the scandal could follow them for the rest of their lives. While it may sound romantic to be willing to risk all for love, the practicalities of the scenario make me want to scream.

Am I alone here?


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Retro Post: Are You A Glommer?

Posted July 15, 2017 by Holly in Discussions, Reviews | 14 Comments

Holly: It’s been 9 years since I originally posted this. I still glom authors, but now I do it digitally. I’ve culled my print collection down to just old favorites. What about you?

This post was originally published May 22, 2008

Work has been kicking my butt lately, so I haven’t had time to write up reviews or post witty, thoughtful topics, so instead I’m recycling an old one.

From dictionary.com:

glom·ming, noun Slang.
–verb (used with object)
1. to steal.
2. to catch or grab.
3. to look at.
–noun
4. a look or glimpse.
—Verb phrase
5. glom onto, to take hold or possession of

I admit I’m a glommer. When I find an author I enjoy, I immediately start working on collecting his/her backlist. I believe the first romance author I glommed was Judith McNaught, followed by Lisa Kleypas. From there it blew up into a crazy, scary, awful thing that has now overwhelmed my life. I’m currently in the process of glomming Karen Templeton.

I even glom authors I don’t read anymore. Like Jude Deveraux. I stopped reading her years ago, but I’m still compelled to buy each and every one of her new releases. And you know, I have her ENTIRE BACKLIST. Do you have any idea how many times I’ve told myself to sell the lot of them on eBay and be done with it? Too many to count. Do you know how many times I’ve actually done it? None. And still, I keep buying her books as they’re released, because I’m OCD and have to have them all on my shelf.

Probably I need help..but let’s move on to you…

Do you glom? What authors? Do you remember your first? Are you OCD like me and collect books long after you’ve stopped reading an author? Or do you not keep any?


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Retro Post: Fifty Shades of Grey is Not Romance

Posted June 21, 2017 by Holly in Discussions | 20 Comments

Retro Post: Fifty Shades of Grey is Not Romance

I (Casee) love this post. I have these books in my TBR pile. This is the second time this post has been reposted, but I feel that it is deserving. This post was originally posted in 2012 (when the books were published) and again in 2015 (when the movies were released).

It seems everyone is talking about Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James. Whether you read it or didn’t, loved it or hated it, I bet you’ve either talked about it with someone or read about it somewhere. Maybe you only heard the title mentioned and know nothing else about it. Or maybe you’ve read it 18 times and can recite it line-by-line. Whatever the case, it’s out there.

First, let’s just get this out of the way: I read all three of these books in a day and a half. As soon as I finished the first one, I bought the second. Likewise with the third. I paid $9.99 PER BOOK for digital copies. It’s possible I was drunk at the time (or should have been). Especially while reading the third. That was just a big ball of WTF rolled up in 500-something pages.

There’s been a lot of criticism on many fronts for this trilogy. I’m not going to touch on the fanfic aspects, because frankly I know nothing about fanfic and I’d only come off sounding like a moron (if you’re interested, author Kate Davies posted an interesting piece about fanfic and Dear Author did an entire series about it) . I’m also not going to address the “mommy porn” label that’s been ascribed to these books. The term makes my head want to explode and I have too much to live for. I will say that “mommy porn” is insulting and it makes me want to punch someone in the junk (because I’m sure a man came up with that).

I would like to address two misconceptions that bother me greatly about this series.

This is a romance novel.

I disagree. While there are many similarities, what keeps this from being a romance in my book is the nature of the relationship between Christian and Ana, the main protagonists. Yes, it has many of the same tropes we find in romance: Billionaire, Tortured Alpha Hero becomes intrigued with Virginal, Malleable Heroine. She thinks she can save him and he only wants her for sex – but then becomes intrigued by her and decides he wants to keep her. On his terms, of course. Which she, naturally, doesn’t agree to. Much angst ensues. Until finally, Happily Ever After (complete with rainbows and unicorns a meadow full of wildflowers and mention of tasting breastmilk).

I know what you’re saying to yourself. You’re saying OMFG what do you MEAN tasting breastmilk??? “Gee, Holly, this sounds an awful lot like a romance novel to me.” And yes, I know on the surface it seems that way. But the truth is, at its core, this is a book about a sad, troubled man who tends toward being abusive and the woman who enables him in being this way.

After reading this trilogy I wanted to write a post titled Why Stalking Is Not OK. Actually, I still kind of want to write that post. But for now I’ll just say it here. Stalking Is Not OK.

I know some novels in recent years have glorified stalking. Most notably for me – probably because it’s marketed to young adults – is the Twilight franchise. But Edward sneaking into Bella’s room to watch her sleep without her knowing was nothing compared to this.

Let me outline a few examples for you.

A. Ana drunk dials Christian one night and he freaks out over the fact that she’s drunk and demands to know where she is. She hangs up on him. 15 minutes later he shows up at the bar. When questioned, he reveals he tracked her cell phone to find out where she was.

“How did you find me?”

“I tracked your cell phone, Anastasia.”

Oh, of course he did. How is that possible? Is it legal? Stalker, my subconscious whispers at me through the cloud of tequila that’s floating in my brain, but somehow, because it’s him, I don’t mind. (Grey p.57)

B.  Christian sends Ana gifts to and drives her home.  Only, she never mentioned where she lives, so how did he know?

“He pulls up outside my duplex. I belatedly realize he’s not asked me where I live – yet he knows. But then he sent the books, of course he knows where I live. What able, cell-phone-tracking, helicopter-owning stalker wouldn’t.” (Grey p.74)

C. He returns unexpectedly from a trip because she meets a friend for a drink instead of going straight home. Yes, he actually cancels a business trip because she met a friend. He specifically told her to go home and when she didn’t, he rushed home to spank scold her.

D. Despite having only known him for a few weeks, he knows her social security and bank account numbers. And he accesses them without her permission.

Now, Ana does call Christian out for his behavior. But she does it in a way that says she doesn’t think it’s a very big deal. Personally I would have stabbed him in the throat called the cops the very first time he said he used my cell phone to track my whereabouts 5 days after I met him. But that’s just me. Ana sort of laughs off most of the things he does. If she does become angry and points it out to him, he apologizes and she forgives him. And then he does it again. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

As I was reading, I kept wondering in what world it’s ok to do the things he did. Were we, the readers, supposed to accept his behavior because Ana did? Or perhaps I was supposed to accept his behavior because he was just a sad little boy on the inside? One who was “Fifty shades of fucked-up” from the emotional and physical abuse he suffered as a child? Because that doesn’t work for me. Honestly, that just freaks me out even more. An unbalanced, self-proclaimed “fucked-up” guy is stalking me at my place of work, knows every detail about my life and follows me around town without my knowledge or permission? I don’t laugh it off and say “now, now, be a good boy”. I run screaming in the opposite direction.

This is a healthy, loving relationship.

No. This is a sad, destructive, abusive relationship. Over the course of the three novels it becomes slightly less destructive and abusive, but only slightly. When I finished the third book I did so with a heavy heart and a bad taste in my mouth. Yes, they are eminently readable. But they’re also depressing as hell.

The mind games and emotional bullying Christian indulges in to get his way; The fact that Ana seems more like a victim suffering from Stockholm Syndrome than a woman in a healthy, loving relationship. These are textbook signs of an abusive relationship. Cutting her off from her friends unless he’s with her or can control the environment she meets with them in, following her on a trip to see her mother even though she expressly asked for time alone to digest things, having her followed and spied on, buying her a computer and a Blackberry and a car, so he can get in touch with her whenever he wants, ordering for her and steamrolling her when she complains:

“Two glasses of the Pinot Grigio,” Christian says with a voice of authority. I purse my lips, exasperated.

“What?” he snaps.

“I wanted a Diet Coke,” I whisper.

His gray eyes narrow and he shakes his head.

“The Pinot Grigio here’s a decent wine. It will go well with the meal, whatever we get,” he says patiently.

“Whatever we get?”

“Yes.” He smiles his dazzling head-cocked-to-one-side smile, and my stomach pole vaults over my spleen. I can’t help but reflect his glorious smile back at him.

These are not signs of a healthy relationship. That Ana tolerated this behavior – and even excused it, or worse, came to enjoy it – does not make it okay.

I think the worst part, however, is the way he casually dismisses her feelings. Especially in the beginning when it comes to being a submissive. The first time he spanks her, she’s very upset afterward. She tells him she felt demeaned and abused. His response?

So you felt demeaned, debased, abused & assaulted – how very Tess Durbeyfield of you. I believe it was you who decided on the debasement, if I remember correctly. Do you really feel like this or do you think you ought to feel like this: Two very different things. If that is how you feel, do you think you could just try and embrace these feelings, deal with them, for me? That’s what a submissive would do.

And naturally, she’s thrilled he thinks of himself as hers, and brushes aside the fact that he’s told her to get over her feelings and let him humiliate and debase her.

As the series continues, Ana learns to stand up for herself a bit more and Christian learns to give in to her occasionally – oh wait, no. That didn’t actually happen. The author told us that’s what happened, but the actions of the characters didn’t change a whit.  Christian still ordered Ana about, cutting her off from her friends and managing her life whether she liked it or not. And she let him.

This does not a romance novel make.

Are these books very readable? Yes. Are they enjoyable? I would say no, but I think that depends on the individual person reading them. Are they romance novels? Not even a little bit.

Fifty Shades of Grey is not a romance.

*I made some minor editorial changes to the revised post


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Retro Post: Should an author push their personal beliefs in their books?

Posted April 19, 2017 by Casee in Discussions | 22 Comments

Today I’m bringing you a post from 2009. Suzanne Brockmann was a big voice in romance back then. She was a big voice for gay rights. She definitely brought her voice into her books.

This was originally posted on August 25, 2009.


If you read between the lines as you’re reading, you can see that some books do reflect the author’s personal belief(s) (i.e., Political, Spiritual, etc.). I think that’s natural. I’m not an author, but I would assume that writing is very personal. So I don’t think it’s wrong if it doesn’t really impact the reader. However, after reading Hot Pursuit, I have to put my reader foot down and say enough is enough. Not that she’s going to listen to moi.

I’ve met Suzanne Brockmann several times. I’ve listened to her speak. I lurrrrve her. I’ve read her Team 16 series from the beginning. I waited forevah for Sam & Alyssa’s book to come out. I was disappointed with it, but it didn’t stop me from continuing the series. I now get her hardcover’s from the library, but I still read them. Hot Pursuit didn’t make me decide to stop reading the series. It just annoyed the ever living hell out of me.

Suz’s readers should know that one thing she is extremely passionate about is gay rights. Her dedication to her son in Hot Target made me cry. Srsly. I was thrilled when she wrote Jules’ story in All Through the Night. If any of her characters deserved a happy ending, it was Jules. Occasionally her newsletters will inform readers of certain things that pertain to gay rights. To each her/his own, right?

I started noticing it several books back. If you pulled every passage having to do with what rights gay people do/don’t have out of all the books and put it together, that would be a book by itself. The point here isn’t whether or not I agree with her. The point is that all the facts and opinions she inserts really takes away from the story. Robin (Jules’ husband) was so glad he was married to Jules because if he wasn’t and Jules was hospitalized, he couldn’t see him because he wasn’t family. They live in Massachusetts because their marriage is recognized there. On and on about what they could/couldn’t do. And if that’s not bad enough, she also brought a new character into Team Sixteen. A gay SEAL. So now she’s going to be tackling the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that the military has. It’s not the character that I protest, it’s the reason she brought the character into the series.

After reading Hot Pursuit, I also have a good idea of her political beliefs. I’m reading a fictional story. If I wanted to read a political book, I would pick one up. So while I did like the book, I was thinking about this all the way through.

What do you think? Should authors push their “agenda” into their books? When is it going too far?


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Retro Post: Forced Seduction or Rape?

Posted March 15, 2017 by Casee in Discussions | 22 Comments

A lot has changed in publishing since 2008, but forced seduction and rape haven’t gone away. If anything, I think we’ve seen even more of this in contemporary novels.

This was originally posted February 25, 2008.
Casee: The other night, Holly and I started talking about the ever controversial topic–rape in romance novels.

The topic came up when I mentioned that I was going to start reading Claiming the Courtesan by Anna Campbell. (I’ve since finished it and hope to have my review up in a few days.) Holly asked if CtC had the “forced seduction” in it, which yes, it does. There are several reviews on Amazon taking the author to task for daring to call her book a romance when the hero rapes the heroine. Whether it was rape is another story altogether. One reviewer told her that CtC was a throwback to the bodice-rippers of the 80’s.
Hello? Have these reviewers ever read Stormfire by Christine Monson? That is indisputably rape. That book is one that doesn’t neatly fit into the “romance” slot it’s supposed to. I’m sure that almost everything that has read Stormfire would agree that there is no question of forced seduction or rape. It was rape.

Then you have the books where it’s rather murky. It basically is left to the reader to decide for themselves b/c it’s far from cut and dried.

The few books that came to mind when Holly and I were talking were Once and Always and Whitney, My Love, both by Judith McNaught. Holly is insistent that Jason raped Tory in Once and Always. Me, not so much. As a matter of fact, I had to go back and read a few pages b/c I don’t remember ever thinking it was rape.

No means no. Right? It’s not so black and white when it comes to the written word (please remember that we’re talking about this topic in regard to reading). As far as Whitney, My Love goes, I think it was rape. Clayton raped Whitney. I don’t even have to think about it.

Then you have books like The Duke by Gaelen Foley. The rape of the heroine turned the plot. It changed who the heroine would have been if the rape wouldn’t have happened. Does that make it less a romance? No, that makes it life. It made the heroine change her life choices, sure, but it didn’t make it less of a romance. That doesn’t mean it’s any less tragic, it just showed the reader that something like that changes a person’s life.

Holly:

There’s definitely a fine line between what I consider “acceptable” forced seduction and just flat out rape. While I agree with Casee about Whitney, My Love, I disagree with her about Once and Always. In my opinion, Jason raped Tory, same as Clay raped Whitney, it was just written prettier in O&A.

You see, Tory said no. She said no at the beginning and continued to say no throughout. Even as her body responded, she told him no. No is no. I don’t care what your body says. If your mouth says no (and it’s clearly not what you want) that’s rape. Plain and simple.

Of course, there are a lot of gray areas there. Because if well written, a forced seduction can be a turning point in a novel. And if extremely well written, I – who considers the “forced seduction/rape” issue a major hot button – will love the hero anyway. That doesn’t happen often, but it has happened.

But back to Jason and Tory. The thing is, I liked Jason. A lot. He was a good hero, and to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure Tory deserved him. She wasn’t totally TSTL, but she did come close. Regardless of that, however, that one scene, the scene where he forces her to submit to him, wasn’t sexy, or hot, or something I’d ever want to experience. Maybe it’s because I’m fairly independent. Or because I’m a modern day woman. Or maybe it’s just I can’t imagine having all control taken away, but when Tory told Jason, “I’ll hate you if you do this” and he did it anyway..well, a part of me hated him, too.

I have to give Judith McNaught credit, however, because even though I hated that one scene in the book, I didn’t end up hating the book as a whole. Nor did I hate Jason or Tory. Honestly? I’m not even sure if I can explain exactly why that is. I imagine it has something to so with JM’s ability to make her characters 3 dimensional and real.

Of course, we’re still not talking about rape. We’re talking forced seduction. Rape, well, that’s something all together different. I don’t think there’s any coming back from rape.

What do you think? Do you think there’s a place for Forced Seduction in romance? What about Rape? I’m not talking about the heroine being raped by someone other than the hero, either. I’m talking about the hero forcing the heroine, against her will.

I think Forced Seduction has it’s place. There are times – though I’m loathe to admit it – when it really needs to happen for the story to progress, or the characters to develop. Rape? I don’t know. I have yet to read a novel labeled romance where the hero actually raped the heroine. There have been a couple close calls, but not an actual rape.

Casee:

I really believe that in the cases of the McNaught books or Claiming the Courtesan, it really is left up to reader interpretation. In books like Stormfire or Island Flame by Karen Robards (those come to mind first), it is clearly rape and those books are not for everyone. I agree with Holly that Forced Seduction does have it’s place.


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